Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Believe, Believe

I don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression; that every day is a good one, that it’s easy being positive or optimistic all the time, or that everyone here is thrilled with my presence. Peace Corps is not an easy job sometimes. That might be due to the fact that it is a 24/7 gig. I’m doing Peace Corps when I get on a microbus that seats 15, but apparently can fit up to 28 (in my experience thus far). I’m doing Peace Corps when a 7 year old shoeless girl comes up to me on the street selling bracelets and scarves so she can get a hot meal, when she should be in a school somewhere. I’m doing Peace Corps when a man cuts in front of me at the window of a tienda (store), or when a woman pushes past me in the market to get her tomatoes. I'm doing Peace Corps when I'm too sick to go farther than 50 feet from my latrine. I'm doing Peace Corps when I'm homesick. To be honest, from time to time, you can get a little Peace Corps’d out. Some days and some moments will always stick out in a negative way. Occasionally, the difference you are trying to make can feel miniscule. I heard a story when I first came in about a couple of guys who did Peace Corps decades ago. They eventually returned to their old site to visit years later, and although by the end of their service the difference that they felt was made seemed small, they found that, with time, their impact had grown exponentially. I think the town had even named a bank or the main street after them. Peace Corps tries to prepare you for instances of low morale. To remember this lesson; that change can be a long slow process, or that after two years your difference may be immeasurable, but eventually can become something great, is really important in the day to day. I’ve been telling myself this when things get tough, and it’s been helping me keep things in perspective. I’ve really started to believe this too. If I can make a positive impact on one person, that impact can be shared with others. If I can change the tiniest of things for the better, that can create a domino effect. I may not see the difference when I leave, or even 5 to 10 years from now, but I’m sure that someday I will be able to see great changes taking place, and that my contribution helped. It’s a generational thing, I really believe that. The other thing I have learned is that, if you don’t believe this, you will drive yourself absolutely crazy... I'm doing just fine.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Goodbye Dust, Hello Mud...

Well, the rains have decided to grace us with its presence here in Guatemala once again, and let me tell you buddy, when it rains, it pours. This is really my first rainy season, although, when I arrived in country it was "technically" rainy season. The last one was a little peculiar, only raining once or twice a week as opposed to every day. This year, the rainy season began as I was leaving a women's group that was a 45 minute hike from my destination. At first, only a sprinkle. I thought, "This will be over soon." Then, little by little, the sprinkle turned into a torrential downpour. My site mate, Amy, was with me, along with her parents who were visiting from the States, and also were the only ones who thought to wear rain gear and bring umbrellas. Amy shared an umbrella with me, which proved almost completely useless below the midsection, for the hike down the mountain. At one point I looked over at Amy's Dad and said, "It's about 30 more minutes from here." To which, being of a Peace Corps background himself, he replied, "Only 30 minutes?" We lucked out 10 minutes later and caught a ride on a chance bus with 35 wide eyed Guatemalan men. When we got off, I left a puddle behind in my seat. The reason I was not decked out in rain gear on this day was because the rains came early this year. I believe mid-May is the appropriate time for the rains the check in, and this happened during the first week of April. It's been raining ever since. Not every day, but pretty frequently. I for one, welcomed the rains. My village, as I have mentioned, has one faucet to serve everyone. During March, the faucet became less and less reliable to the point of not giving more that a slow drip for two weeks. My family has a decent sized water tank that also was running on fumes. So, for the sake of my empty pila and pile of dirty dishes, the rains were great to see. Also, the dust had been relentless up to that point. There is still a layer caked on miscellaneous rarely used items in my house. This time of year is referred to as "invierno" (winter), although it isn't nearly as cold (no ice). It will last for roughly 6 months, with at least one break of 15 or more days in June (typically). I will soon begin planting vegetable gardens with all of my women's groups and schools, utilizing the compost we have been working on for the past three months. Amy and I will be working separately, combining different aspects of our program that compliment each other. I will be working with the gardens, chickens, and compost, while Amy will be teaching the women and children about nutrition (balanced diet, vitamins, minerals), and how to use the vegetables in the kitchen. With the coming of the rains, I can finally work towards fulfilling my projects goals, and I look forward to leaving my house every day (rain coat on my back and mud boots on my feet) to teach what I can to those who are willing to learn.